Changes in marijuana laws may offer protection for recreational users.

May 1, 2023

Early last month, just before lawmakers went on a two week spring break, the Illinois Senate passed two bills that would further decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis in Illinois. Senate bill 125 and Senate Bill 126 would prevent the police from searching a person’s vehicle based only on the smell of cannabis. Senate Bill 125 (SB125) which was implemented as a response to a Will County court case in which a defendant was pulled over and arrested after the officer detected “a strong odor of burnt cannabis emanating from the vehicle.” The defendant in the case declared that someone had smoked cannabis in the care “a long time ago.’ The bill would not change the state’s laws around impaired driving. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal.

In order to search a vehicle, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause to believe that a crime is occurring,” Because the recreational use of cannabis is now legal in Illinois. because there is just as much probable cause to believe that no crime is occurring when the officer smells raw cannabis.The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons (for their car to be searched). The pungent odor of Cannabis which can stick to a person’s clothes for extended periods of time should not give officer’s the ability to search a person’s vehicle. Further, “the smell of “burnt or raw cannabis in a motor vehicle” which the consumption/smoking of is legal “cannot alone be probable cause for an individual’s vehicle to be searched.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rachel Ventura (D), said in a statement issued by Senate Democrats that the proposal would protect Illiniosians’ rights against unreasonable searches. “Ventura further declared that “People—especially people of color—are unnecessarily pulled over far too often,” “The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons. Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it’s a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time.”

As passed by the body, the bill says that “if a motor vehicle is driven or occupied by an individual 21 years of age or over, the odor of burnt or raw cannabis in a motor vehicle by itself shall not constitute probable cause for the search of the motor vehicle, vehicle operator, or passengers in the vehicle.” To read the full text of SB125 click here.